This book was intriguing, with a brilliant premise, but unfortunately the execution was lacking and turned the concept into something more problematic. With such a brilliant and horrifying idea at the heart, it was incredibly frustrating that half way through a love interest was brought in for Violet which then became the focus. The love interest itself was problematic – there was no build up of the relationship, no real relationship to speak of that the reader can see develop. Just a few stolen moments and then suddenly, ‘we’re in love!’ which has been done to death in fiction, particularly at the moment. It then provides a truly ridiculous springboard for a climactic end to the book, another cliff hanger for the sake of trying to keep readers hooked rather than a natural end to the book with a lead into the next one. The romance really slows down the story and takes away from the focus of the story which could be brilliant with a bit of work....more
Huge thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
I was very curious to see how the book would turn out, coming from two such well known and prolific authors as Clare and Black, but also because of the comparisons being made to Harry Potter.
Yes there are a lot of comparisons, but there are also a lot of differences too which helps once you get into it. There’s the school for magic, the trio of friends who band together, the sneaking around and general hijinks happening behind people’s backs, the prophecy, the Dumbledore and Snape like teacher figures, but there’s an awful lot in there that sets it apart from the Potter series. The series is always going to divide opinion, and there will always be people who can’t get into it or don’t want to read it because of the comparisons. For me personally it was like looking into a slightly skewed mirror until I got far enough into the story that it stopped being quite so obvious.
It was a bit unsettling though because I did always have Potter in the back of my head. And whilst every effort was being made to make magic school cool and exciting, I couldn’t get beyond some aspects of it. It was underground and cold and dark and no one ever really saw the outside world and the food, no matter how delicious it was described to be, sounded weird… I missed Hogwarts. And if it hadn’t been so similar in so many ways, that comparison wouldn’t have been there.
Comparisons aside, it is still a very good book. Black and Clare make a great writing team and I really enjoyed the story. There were some great twists, some wonderful characters, and some really intriguing elements....more
When anything tries to compare itself to ‘The Night Circus’ I am hesitant. ‘The Night Circus’ is such a hauntingly beautiful novel that holds such a special place in my heart that nothing ever seems to come close to touching it. ‘The Magician’s Lie’ comes incredibly close though.
The novel is split, between the night when Arden’s husband is found dead and she goes on the run, only to be caught by Virgil, a police officer, and her retelling of her life story whilst in custody. One night and one incredible story later, Virgil must try and untangle what has really happened.
It’s an intriguing premise – a female magician in a period when Arden is the only one, a touring magic show, a desperate and breathless backstory with true love tangled up in it all. The novel is beautifully written and brilliantly executed. The only places where it stumbles are when we are brought back to reality and Arden trying to persuade Virgil of her innocence. The pace slows and I found myself desperate for them to stop talking and for Arden to get back to re-telling her own story.
The novel has been thoroughly researched and it shows, the characters and setting peel off the page and immerse the reader in the tale. It is brilliantly constructed and stitched together and I found myself coming to care about Arden and her story very quickly. She is a wonderful heroine with a fascinating life and I loved her from the start....more
After reading a truly terrible young adult account of Sophie, (the future Catherine the Great) a few months ago, I remembered that I had on my shelves another telling of that story, this one recommended by an author I adore, so I decided to give the tale another go.
‘The Winter Palace’ is an intense and gripping story told by Varvara, a Polish orphan who is taken in by the Empress and set to work in the royal wardrobe. She is hungry, exhausted, constantly belittled, and feels she should be destined for greater things if only the Empress knew that she was there living in the palace. By sheer luck and her curiosity she comes to the attention of Count Bestuzhev who trains her and presents her to the Empress as a new spy.
Varvara is a fascinating protagonist. She has a disappointing tendency to become as flat and invisible to the reader as Bestuzhev demands her to be to the occupants of the palace, but on the whole she is an intriguing view point to watch history unfold from. She sees so much, is privy to so much and it is engrossing to watch her become embroiled in the very heart of everything, privy to the Empress herself. Anyone who has a basic knowledge of Russian history will know how the events of the book will play out, but Stachniak manages on the whole to still make it fresh and new and engrossing for the reader as you are enmeshed further along with Varvara.
Stachniak has re-created the Winter Palace with an eye for detail and an ability to convey the sheer grandeur and over indulgence of the period. It is stunning in its complexity and the vibrancy that fairly oozes from the pages as you are drawn into this world with its intrigues and politics and scandals. It is a lush and opulent depiction of life in Russia that Varvara hovers on the edges of, flitting in and out of the main tale and drawing the reader ever deeper into the web of secrets and lies that make up life in the Palace....more
Huge thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review This review is spoiler free! Published: 11th September 2014
When I got my hands on an early copy of ‘Heir of Fire’ I couldn’t wait to get started. It was just a shame that around five pages in I realized that most of the events of the previous book was nothing but a hazy memory and if I wanted any clue what was happening I needed to go back and start at the beginning. So I’ve spent and otherwise stressful few weeks happily ensconced in Celaena’s world, reliving her battle to become the King’s Champion, her slow uncovering of the rebels plots, the devastation and loss and the shock of revelations at the end of ‘Crown of Midnight’. It was quite the emotional rollercoaster, and I was expecting that pace to be maintained, thinking that this was the last book in the series. Thankfully I was wrong, and there are plenty of stories waiting for another book to tell them, but it meant that I spent a good portion of the book waiting for the pace to kick up a notch as it would in the final book in a series, and being disappointed. Once I got around the fact that I was being an idiot and doing myself out of more books (Sarah has stated on her website that she’s always seen the series as a 6 book one.) I settled in and enjoyed the book. ...more
I should probably be upfront that Sarah is in fact a very dear friend of mine, so whilst I would be gushing about this book already simply on its own merit, the fact that it was written by Sarah just makes it even more awesome.
There is a big surge of diverse young adult fiction hitting the shelves which is a welcome breath of fresh air, and Sora’s tale set in modern Japan is no exception. Add to it that the story itself tackles death, euthanasia and features a disabled protagonist and ‘The Last Leaves Falling’ quickly sets itself apart as something other than your average YA fiction. The truth is it is so much more.
Sora is a tragic and compelling protagonist, at times buoyed up by those around him, sometimes sinking underneath the weight of inevitability, but his narrative had me racing through the book. It is a quiet, raw tale full of the tragic sense of time crashing too fast that comes with such a story, but that in no way hinders the storytelling, or makes it feel like a waste of a book. The prose is so beautifully constructed that you are at once struck with the inevitable end, desperate for any way to alleviate it, but knowing that there is nothing that can be done except to be with Sora through his journey and listen to his story....more
Thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
I am a sucker for road trip stories so I was really excited about ‘Let’s Get Lost’ – it’s just a shame that it didn’t live up to the hype. The entire novel is centred around Leila, who breezes through four strangers lives at just the right time to magically fix all their troubles and woes. This could have been brilliant, but unfortunately Leila was nothing more than an attractive plot device. She had no substance, no depth, and whilst we do find out a little more about her in the final section and some of this lack of character is explained, it is not enough to redeem her....more
Thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
“For all you hardworking history teachers who want to hit me with a book after reading this. The line forms here. No pushing. Everyone will get a turn.” Any historical fiction book that begins with an author’s note like this should immediately ring alarm bells. I appreciate messing around with historical timelines to make a more thrilling story for the reader, so long as it is clearly stated that historical tampering has happened. However, ‘Queen of Someday’ not only doesn’t follow any sort of historical timeline for Catherine/Sophie, any sort of research of the period and dialogue appears to have been cursory at best.
When I pick up an historical novel, I expect realistic dialogue for the time period and realistic characters. I do not expect modern throwaway conversations or characters that are attempting to fill the ‘feisty heroine’ cut out and therefore act in ways that would never have been lauded and celebrated in this particular time period. It immediately throws me from the story and stops me from enjoying the book.
Trying to jam several different parts of Catherine’s life into this one short book causes even more problems. All historical accuracy is thrown over for unbelievable romances and one dimensional characters. Which is tragic because this could have been something brilliant. With a clearer cut plot and with fewer romances that have no spark to speak of, there could have been more time spent on character development which could have saved this novel.
I wanted to love this book. I love historical novels and when they are done well they can be some of the best form of escapism. But sadly there were just too many pitfalls for me to take any sort of enjoyment from it. Badly researched with too many aspects of Catherine’s life smushed into one small chunk of her life to try and provide more of an action packed storyline, and with one dimensional characters that never grabbed me or really came alive. ...more
I am a big fan of Belinda Jones’ books. They’re fun, they’re romantic, they take you to new and exciting places, and they don’t always have the happily ever after that you expect. They’re a brilliant mix of the traditional romance that makes you feel all warm and fluffy inside, and real life that grounds them and shows you that not all happy endings are the stereotypical. However, much as I have loved her previous books, ‘The Travelling Tea Shop’ didn’t really hit the mark for me.
One of the biggest issues for me was actually something that I have loved about previous books, the info dumping of history and facts to liven up the tour and places visited. I think when you’re reading your first couple of Belinda’s novels you (tend to) really enjoy the extra information that’s imparted, but the more you read the more repetitive it gets. Yes some of the information was fascinating, but on the whole it felt like I was reading a travel brochure combined with a text book. It got incredibly old incredibly quickly....more
Scarlet was one of the best books I have ever read. It was incredible and I loved it. I couldn’t bear the idea that we wouldn’t have any more opportunities to find out what happened next, as originally it seemed that Scarlet would be a standalone. Then Ms Gaughen announced that there would be more to Scarlet’s story, and I (and everyone else who read it and fell in love with her) were thrilled.
In fact I was so nervous about how good Scarlet had been and how high my expectations now were that I took a very long time to eventually let myself read this book. But I really shouldn’t have worried, this book was just as good as the first, and it was so wonderful to be back with Scarlet and the others.
The characters are beautifully written. I love seeing the world through Scarlet’s eyes. I love slipping into her dialect as she blends in with the boys and how the lady pushes through at other points. Her voice is so fantastically real and that makes the story even more special to read. I love her view of Robin, how she is able to see his flaws, not to put him up on a pedestal, but to love every broken and strong part of him equally with all the broken and strong parts of herself. She went through hell for him at the end of the last book, and again throughout this one, and at no point does she lose herself or diminish herself for the love of him. It is such a wonderful healthy view of love....more
So you know how much I loved ‘Anna and the French Kiss’? I have a terrible confession to make, I really didn’t enjoy ‘Lola and the Boy Next Door’. And I feel terrible because everyone was saying how if I loved the first one then the second one was just going to blow me away, and really how couldn’t I love the second one given my feelings about the first? But whilst there were some awesome elements to Lola, she just didn’t do it for me in the same way that Anna did.
The problem for me was Lola herself. Whilst Anna was an engaging and fantastic narrator, Lola came across as incredibly immature and a little whiny. I loved the idea of Lola, she was feisty and didn’t conform and had her own very unique sense of self and didn’t let anybody crush that or take it away from her. All fantastic things that I really loved, but they just didn’t come across as they should have done. It was all very dramatic and over the top, completely over blown until it stopped feeling like it could be real, it was almost a caricature of the ideas....more
I needed this book. In fact I probably needed this book a few months ago when I first moved to France, but hey, better late than never. This book just called out to me in so many ways, it made me laugh and cry and repeatedly put Anna in situations that I’ve been in and I felt for her so much. I moved to France at the end of October last year. I had mildly more control over it than Anna does in the book, but I spoke about the same amount of French as she does, and the entire thing terrified me. It is so reassuring when you’re reading a book and you see situations and scenarios that are close to you, and you’re able to read them and go ‘hey, this is ok, I am not being ridiculous for feeling like this!’ And when Anna spent her first few weeks hiding in the school and not exploring Paris, and eating bread and fruit because she was too afraid to try and order food in French, I wanted to hug her and tell her I know exactly how you feel and I promise you it gets better.
This book basically felt like a mutual hug. I wanted to hug Anna, and it felt like in return the book was hugging me and telling me that it would all be ok and I would love this strange, crazy city and understand this language and that the experiences would be something I would look back on and cherish. So my review is pretty much guaranteed to be a love letter to this book that felt like a life raft at just the point that I needed it. ...more
Oh this series. It's one of those ones that if I think too hard about what I'm reading I have to stop, because there is so much wrong with this series, yet at the same time it is weirdly addictive...
The series had a lot of potential, but it falls into the trap of so many cliches that really it never stood a chance. The girls are all one dimensional, the drama is all one dimensional, and don't even get me started on the love triangle. America comes across as the sort of girl who would fall apart if she didn't have one of these boys to fawn over, which is incredibly irritating. I want strong heroines. Now that doesn't mean that they don't have to want to have a partner, but at least give them something that makes them their own individual person, not have their desire for one of the inevitable two boys vying for their attention be the only feature about them....more